Elmore Leonard’s RAYLAN

“I always felt, you don’t have a good time doin crime, you may as well find a job.”

I have a confession to make. This was the first Elmore Leonard book that I have ever read. I have loved the movies that have been made out of his novels (Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown) and the crime writers I love all cite him as an influence. I’m really resistant to reading authors who have an extensive backlist because I know if I love them I will have to read all their books and that is a big commitment to make to an author who has been writing for decades! And I can honestly say Elmore Leonard lives up to his reputation as a grand master of crime writing. He is everything he is cracked up to be. Bloody brilliant dialogue and crazy crooks.

The reason I finally decided to dive into an Elmore Leonard book was because I had discovered the lead character of this book, US Marshall Raylan Givens, through the TV show JUSTIFIED starring Timothy Olyphant from DEADWOOD fame. JUSTIFIED is based on an Elmore Leonard short story, FIRE IN THE HOLE, and has had three seasons so far in the US. Leonard is also an executive producer and after rediscovering the character he originally created decided to write a new novel starring Raylan.

The TV show is great. It is not THE SOPRANOS or THE WIRE nor is it trying to be. It is great entertainment and it is refreshing to have a TV crime show set in Kentucky rather than the obligatory LA or New York. Olyphant brings a little of Bullock from DEADWOOD to the role but only a little bit (and that might just be latent memory on my part!). What is also different about JUSTIFIED is that Givens is a US Marshall not a cop. His job is to track down fugitives at large not solve murders and other crimes. This gives both Givens and the writers much more freedom in where they can go and what they can do.

I really enjoyed the new novel featuring Givens although as a fan of the show it did get a bit confusing at times. Like the DEXTER series of novels Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens exists in an alternate universe to the TV character. The novel dealt with similar but not exactly the same storylines and characters that feature in series two of the TV series and as a reader I had to work at keeping the two entities separate. However the writing and story are both brilliant and if you haven’t seen the show yet (it airs in Australia early next year) you will love it even more.

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